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LIVE: Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide Festival – raving in the South of France

by Ayian C.

I’m dancing by the foot of the stage, almost touching distance to Scuba as he drops pumping minimal techno beats that drive the crowds wild. It’s 4am and thousands of people are still going strong under the lighthouse of Sète – a small port town on the French Mediterranean coast.

Gilles Peterson emerges from the side of the stage with champagne flukes and a bottle of bubbly, handing out glasses to a dozen revellers around me. Arms are eagerly outstretched, keen to quench their thirst from hours of dancing.

I sip my glass with relish and look up as Gilles as he clinks the champagne bottle against my plastic fluke – cheers!

Just a few hours ago I was dancing on the beach to Carl Cox playing a disco funk set, with hundreds of people under sun and sand between my toes.

 

At the Theatre de la Mer, Sète’s most beautiful outdoor music venue, musicians play with the Mediterranean Sea as their backdrop. Seagulls fly overhead, sailboats glide into the harbour, and the moon slowly rises above the horizon. For the first two nights, the theatre was turned into a massive open air disco, with Moodymann playing Detroit house classics under a bright full moon, and the next evening it’s David Rodigan and Mala’s turn on the decks.

It is also at this breathtaking theatre where I witnessed live performances of Gang Colours, Matthew Halsall Trio and Portico Quartet on day five of the week-long Worldwide Festival (WF). So many fantastic and memorable events had already taken place in this unassuming fishing village, and the weekend is yet to come into full force.

 

It’s days like these that make me feel that WF is the best festival in the world. The location, the spectacular venues, the unmissable line up, the friendly people, the intimate and family-like vibe – it’s all perfect!

In its seventh year, the Worldwide Festival has grown from strength to strength. Today, WF has an established presence in Singapore and a winter edition is due on the slopes of Leysin, Swtizerland in 2013.

I almost feel guilty (not really) for enjoying what feels like a festival of luxury. Spoiled to the max in the South of France, renowned for its sunshine, beaches, seafood and wine – it’s probably not the kind of experience most people associate with a festival.

Most mornings I walk to the local boulangerie for breakfast croissants. Before heading out to start a full day of raving, I pack a baguette stuffed with brie for lunch on the go. And while dancing on the beach, most people drink from ice cold bottles of rosè wine. Sure, the weather isn’t always perfect with the occasional drizzle, but the sun is out in full glory most of the time, and you’ll never find a single speckle of mud. Camping is an option, but the majority of festival-goers find accommodation in either hotels, rented apartments or villas on the beach or in the hills.

To survive a seven-day festival, a good night’s sleep, good food and wine is necessary to take full advantage of a ridiculously sick line up painstakingly handpicked by Gilles Peterson:

GARFLD, ALEX PATCHWORK, MO KOLOURS live, ONRA live, DJ RKK, GILLES PETERSON, MOODYMANN, CHANNEL ONE, LV, ASHLEY BEEDLE, DAVID RODIGAN, MALA, RITA MAIA, FATIMA, ALEXANDER NUT, FLOATING POINTS, ESKA live, ROBERT GLASPER EXPERIMENT live, LEFTO, ALICE RUSSELL & TM JUKE live, LITTLE DRAGON live, NOZE live, MOSCA, CARL COX, GANG COLOURS live, PORTICO QUARTET live, MATTHEW HALSALL TRIO live, 2MORROWS VICTORY live, BADBADNOTGOOD live, JULIO BASHMORE , SCUBA, FOUR TET, SUNDAE, SIMBAD, PHIL ASHER,  IG CULTURE, TINARIWEN live, ELECTRIC WIRE HUSTLE live, DIMLITE live, GREMS live, MACHINEDRUM live, CLAUDE VONSTROKE, LOEFAH, LEFTO, ATJAZZ, GREGORY PORTER live, KORELESS live, NICOLAS JAAR live

The festival programme is scheduled in a way so that the acts don’t overlap, and people get to enjoy everything on show. It’s all very civilised. Gilles and the organisers at Freshly Cut are careful to control the number of people so it doesn’t get too big (around 3,000-4,000), to keep things running smoothly come rain or shine, and of course to maintain the quality of the line up. This is a festival for people who love music and who are proud of loving music; for those whose musical tastes are eclectic and informed.

My own personal favorite track of the festival, and believe me there were plenty to choose from, is “Forgotten Notes” by Hackman which is available for free download. Julio Bashmore’s “Au Seve” was also a huge crowd pleaser. And my best moment was Koreless dropping New Order’s “Blue Monday” as the last track of his set. It was a moment of poetic genius by this 21-year old from Scotland. To hear “Blue Monday” on an enormous Funktion One soundsystem under the stars was pure magic!

The only question left to ask is – who is coming next year?

If you’re not yet convinced, here’s a photographic account of the festival by a master behind the lens, Olivier Cavaller. A series of short films are available on Vimeo courtesy of DJ Lefto.

The Worldwide Festival takes place during the first week of July in Sète, France. For more information check their website.